Lizzie Lee and Tim O'Donoghue deliver in Cork Cross Country Championships

Thrilling battle saw Leevale's Ryan Creech pipped by Tim O'Donoghue, with Olympic rower Paul O'Donovan also taking part
Lizzie Lee and Tim O'Donoghue deliver in Cork Cross Country Championships

Leevale winning team pictured with coach Donie Walsh: Lizzie Lee (individual winner), Niamh Moore, Victoria Cravatte, Lisa Hegarty, Nadine Forde, Rosaleen MacKeown. Picture: John Walshe

WHILE Lizzie Lee had her expected easy victory at the Cork Senior Cross Country Championships, the men’s race developed into an enthralling contest with pre-race favourite Ryan Creech having to settle for second behind the in-form Tim O’Donoghue.

O’Donoghue, of the East Cork club, made it three county senior titles in a row and it followed on from his recent unbeaten form in a number of road races. Leevale-man Creech had finished sixth and first Irishman in the world-class Antrim Coast Half-Marathon five weeks before and was seen as the odds-on favourite.

On the undulating course at Carraigadrohid near Macroom, Creech tried to stay with O’Donoghue for the first half of the race but had to give way as the East Cork athlete powered away for a 50-second victory.

The main protagonists were out in front from the start and the end of the third lap of six they were a half-minute clear of Liam Harris (Togher) and Paul Hartnett (East Cork). Around halfway of the 10km distance on one of the short but demanding hills, O’Donoghue made his move and continued to increase his lead for a well-deserved and convincing victory.

Tim O'Donoghue on his way to winning his third Cork senior cross-country title. Picture: John Walshe
Tim O'Donoghue on his way to winning his third Cork senior cross-country title. Picture: John Walshe

“To be honest, this would have to be my most satisfying performance,” admitted the winner. “I said I’d go on the hill and try and get a gap before into the wind and then settle in again down the back end of the course. I just kept it going after that so I’m delighted with the win.” O’Donoghue now hopes to run the Autumn Open Festival in Abbottstown on October 17 followed by the Munster (October 31) and national (November 21) championships.

Although obviously disappointed not to win his first county title, Creech was fulsome in his praise for O’Donoghue. “I’ve no excuses, that were really a top-class performance by Tim.” Third place went to Harris, winner of the novice race the previous Sunday. Leevale’s Gavin O’Rourke passed Hartnett for fourth, guaranteeing the city club another team title as holders North Cork were unable to field a team due to injuries.

Lee was the easy winner of the women’s race, leading home her club-mates Niamh Moore and Victoire Cravatte for a facile team victory. This was her sixth county senior victory, although her first since 2013. Ahead from the start, she finished with around the same winning margin as O’Donovan in the men’s decider.

Olympic rowing gold medallist Paul O'Donovan finishing 27th at the Cork senior cross-country. Picture: John Walshe
Olympic rowing gold medallist Paul O'Donovan finishing 27th at the Cork senior cross-country. Picture: John Walshe

“I was really nervous before this, as it was my first cross-country in three-and-a-half years since the European Clubs in Portugal,” admitted Lee. “I’m delighted with that, I would love to make the Euro Cross team but it’s going to be a really tough ask this year, but I’ll give it a lash anyway.” 

Moore, after a successful summer on the roads, passed county novice winner Cravatte with a lap to go to take a well-deserved second. Just 17 finishers and only two complete teams made it one of the smallest fields in years.

Olympic gold medallist rower Paul O’Donovan continued his fondness for the sport of running as after making his debut the week before in the Cork novice race he turned out again for the senior championship.

Representing Leevale, O’Donovan finished in 27th position of the 44 finishers. Asked if he could be converted to switching sports, he quipped “I’d consider, it doesn’t get any easier as this is my second one in a week.” 

While it may have been the Skibbereen rowing hero’s first attempt at the equally demanding discipline of cross-country, for East Cork’s Denis McCarthy it was his 39th time competing in the county senior.

It’s a record that will unlikely be equally or surpassed and he will no doubt be looking forward to the 2022 event where he will be hoping to make it to a historic 40th appearance.

RESULTS

Men 10km 1 T O’Donoghue (East Cork) 32:39; 2 R Creech (Leevale) 33:19; 3 L Harris (Togher) 34:11; 4 G O’Rourke (Leevale) 34:17; 5 P Hartnett (East Cork) 34:46; 6 M Bruton (Leevale) 35:00.

Team: 1 Leevale (2, 4, 6, 7) 19; 2 East Cork (1, 5, 18. 20) 44; 3 Togher (3, 15, 16, 17) 51.

Women 6km 1 L Lee (Leevale) 22:39; 2 N Moore (Leevale) 23:30; 3 V Cravatte (Leevale) 23:40; 4 L Bolster (Mallow) 24:25; 5 L Hegarty (Leevale) 24:36; 6 N Mackey (Cork TC) 24:55.

Team: 1 Leevale (1, 2, 3, 5) 11; 2 St Finbarrs (8, 9, 12, 14) 43.

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